Prince Albert library takes giant leap forward in digital media

Jodi Schellenberg
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Looking for a way to borrow from the library without having to leave your home?

This month, members of the John M. Cuelenaere library can start using hoopla, a digital media service that has more than 200,000 titles for movies, TV shows, audiobooks and music.

The John M. Cuelenaere library in Prince Albert has further expanded their digital resources by adding hoopla, a service that offers more than 200,000 titles for movies, TV shows, audiobooks and music.

“It is part of the changing nature of technology and what libraries can offer people,” said Greg Elliott, deputy director for the library.

Although the library offers DVDs and VHS tapes for people to take out, the staff wanted to be able to offer more to the community.

“As technology is moving more towards streaming, we have to provide people with the service they want and they need,” Elliott said. “It is a service very similar to what Netflix offers. We hope it is something people will enjoy and like and provide them easy access to materials they otherwise wouldn’t get.”

According to Jeff Jankowski, the owner and founder of hoopla, the service is very similar to Netflix, but has some differences.

Instead of only using a streaming model, the service allows downloads.

“I think one of the biggest advantages in Canada, and especially in rural areas, is that you can go to a Wi-Fi hotspot, like a library or a Starbucks, and download it and then without tapping into your data plan, use the content on your device over and over again throughout your lending period,” Jankowski said. “If you wanted to download an audio book that was 12 hours or a music album or a video, without having to tap into your data roaming or your Internet fees, you could actually download them and use them offline.

“It is different than Netflix in that regard and I think it is really appealing and really convenient. Our goal is to allow content to be allowed anywhere, any place.”

Although it is also similar to the eBook lending model the library currently has, Jankowski said it is more convenient.

With the eBook lending model most libraries have, they only have one copy of the book and the process is similar to a physical book lending.

“All the limitations that are in that one user, one copy model come over in the digital model,” he said. “For example, if a library buys the latest John Grisham novel and only buys two copies, only two patrons can have that checked out at the same time.

“Our model is everything is available, all 200,000 titles, simultaneously to every cardholder in the community,” he added. “There are no restrictions and waiting in line or late fees. It really allows libraries to stay relevant to the community and offering a true digital experience where there is no waiting in line or actually having to go to the library and reserving items.”

There is a wide selection of programming available through hoopla, Elliot said, who has had a chance to look through their titles since it was introduced in Prince Albert at the beginning of the month.

“It offers very similar levels of programming that Netflix Canada offers,” he said. “It is a fairly wide range of materials as well and also a lot more along the lines of do-it-yourself and athletic type of stuff as well -- like yoga and exercise and how to do crafts, as well as documentaries, movies and TV shows.”

Anyone with a library card is able to use the service -- they can either download the app for their mobile device or use it in a web browser at

All they have to do is register with their library card and pin and will have access to all the material in hoopla.

“We worked very closely with libraries beta testing it last year and now we are launching it to public libraries all over North America,” Jankowski said. “I believe we have 330 systems that are live today.”

In Canada, they already have the service provided to many communities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Toronto.

In order to properly serve communities, Jankowski said it is important to use digital content.

“People are using their mobile devices and phones as their primary viewing screen now and that is happening of course with millennials but it is happening with other demographics as well,” he said. “For me, it is an empowering process for the cardholders to discover materials on their own whenever they want without the constrictions of a building or physical materials.

“It is really allowing people to find their voice and be entertained, informed or educated at their leisure,” he added. “I think in those regards, a lot of people prefer physical items and always will, but it is allowing the library to stay nimble and serve a greater percentage of the community.”

Elliot believes Prince Albert and area residents will enjoy using hoopla.

“I think they will react quite well to it because it does offer a very good service and it is a service very similar to Netflix in terms of the range of materials -- in some cases it is even better than Netflix offers.”

In order to further serve the city, Elliot said hopefully by the end of the week they will also be connected with Zinio, a digital magazine service.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Netflix, Starbucks

Geographic location: Canada, North America, Calgary Edmonton Saskatoon Toronto

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